Next CGE seminar: Communicating across online and offline spaces: a mobile-supported business model for migrant micro-entrepreneurs


The next Centre for Global Englishes (CGE) seminar will take place on Wednesday 7th December 2016 from 5:00-6:30pm in Lecture Theatre C, Building 65, Avenue Campus. The seminar is entitled, “Communicating across online and offline spaces: a mobile-supported business model for migrant micro-entrepreneurs” and will be led by Dr Caroline Tagg from The Open University. All welcome!

Here is the abstract for this seminar:
In this talk, I draw on data from a large ethnographic project to explore the ways in which migrant small-business owners exploit mobile phone messaging apps to do business, establish and maintain informal support networks, and perform identities as entrepreneurs of a particular heritage background. The project is the AHRC-funded, four-year ‘Translation and Translanguaging: investigating linguistic and cultural transformations in superdiverse wards in four UK cites’ (PI: Angela Creese, University of Birmingham). Key participants are observed, recorded and interviewed at work and home, a well-established ethnographic approach which is innovatively augmented by the parallel collection of social media data.

My talk focuses on the social media use of two entrepreneurial couples: Chinese butchers in Birmingham and Polish shop-owners in London. Analysis of their SMS, WeChat and Viber messages, informed by the interview and interactional data collected at work and home, shows that mobile messaging apps are facilitating the emergence of a new business model characterised by dynamic configurations of time and space. I detail how the mobile phone serves as a gateway to physical contexts such as the shop whilst also facilitating asynchronous communication which we describe as a ‘virtual noticeboard’. I also explore how the mobile makes possible the creation of a support network which stretches from the surrounding UK city to the migrants’ home countries, and how the migrants draw on different timescales – immediate concerns and shared cultural histories – in managing these relationships. In documenting this new model, I explore the ways in which the entrepreneurs construct, negotiate and exploit multiple layers of flexible and selective ‘timespaces’, transgressing traditional boundaries of time and space and creating new intersections between virtual and physical space as they fulfil everyday functions.

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